Ladies Celebrating Ladies

Courtesy of the official Parks and Rec Twitter account.

Courtesy of the official Parks and Rec Twitter account

Happy Galentine’s Day, everyone! This wonderful fictional holiday was created by my personal hero Leslie Knope as a day to honor all of the beautiful and talented women who make our lives special. Valentine’s Day may be traditionally about romance, but Galentine’s Day is all about female friendships.

The idea behind Galentine’s Day—ladies celebrating ladies—is still such a rare thing in the media. I was looking back through my Top 3 Female Friendships on TV that I compiled last year, and I was saddened to see that two of those three are no longer really a part of their respective shows due to cast departures. And there aren’t very many friendships I would add to that list, either, despite the huge increase in the number of shows I watch nowadays.

For most of the mainstream media, it’s still common practice to feature one woman who’s friends with a group of men (see The Mindy Project or the Harry Potter series) or a female friendship that exists solely for exposition purposes in terms of the show’s romantic relationships (see Donna and Rachel on Suits or Lanie and Beckett on Castle). There aren’t too many examples of women forming deep, lasting relationships with other women based on factors other than needing a sounding board for their romantic problems. And that needs to change.

Women are often seen as superficial, backstabbing, petty, and prone to jealousy towards members of their own gender. If you were to make assumptions based solely on the media (a horrible way to form opinions, if I’m being honest), female friendships are mostly a series of interactions between “frenemies” instead of the supportive, inclusive, and warm relationships they usually are in the real world. Female friendships are all-too-often portrayed as being far less meaningful than the ultimate relationship goal: romance. Having friends is great, but what would a woman talk about with her friends if there were no romantic prospects to discuss?

The answer: Quite a lot, actually. You see, women can and do actually have conversations about things other than their romantic relationships (or lack thereof). We can form meaningful relationships with people of our own gender that often last longer and fulfill us on more levels than romantic relationships at any given point in our lives. As I said in my review of Parks and Recreation’s ode to friendship, “Ann and Chris,” our first soul mates are often our best friends. Women (especially young women) don’t have to be catty, petty, and suspicious of other women just because the media says that’s how we often are. Instead, let’s change the narrative and celebrate the fact that women are often incredibly generous, affectionate, and supportive towards other women. We don’t have to be each other’s biggest rivals and enemies; we can be each other’s biggest cheerleaders and most trusted confidants.

Now that Ann and Leslie have gone to “TV BFF Heaven” (along with the likes of Rory and Lane, Mary and Rhoda, Lucy and Ethel, Sydney and Francie, and the women of Sex and the City), I just want to offer some advice for future TV writers who want to create realistic female friendships…

Write about women who meet as kids and have a real sense of shared history between them. Write about women who meet as teenagers and bond over having a crush on the same unattainable boy instead of competing for him. Write about women who meet as adults in an office and help each other rise to new positions in the workplace.

Write conversations where women talk for extended periods of time without bringing up a romantic prospect. Have them talk about their families, their goals, their insecurities, pop culture, the new shoes they bought, or—heaven forbid—sports. Write conversations where women talk about their problems with one another openly and honestly—we don’t all flip tables or pull hair when we’re mad, and we don’t all act nice to each other’s faces but secretly hate each other. Write conversations where a woman shares her insecurities about how she looks and her friend sincerely encourages her, instead of conversations where women pick apart each other’s physical flaws.

Create women who are emotionally guarded but are still friends with women who are more open and affectionate. Create women who are happy being single but can still be friends with women who like to be in relationships. Create women who are different from one another but still love each other anyway—unconditionally, without trying to change each other.

Show women laughing together, really laughing until they can’t breathe. Show women crying together over things besides breakups. When someone we love passes away, when we lose a job, or when we feel like we’re losing ourselves, our best female friend is often the one we go to first. Show women giving each other advice on careers, family problems, and, yes, even dating. (We do talk about men sometimes—just not all the time.) Show women acknowledging how much other women have shaped their lives.

No two women are alike, so no two female friendships are alike. Write women who feel like real women, so their friendships feel like real friendships. Don’t be afraid to write imperfect friendships; embrace them. No person is perfect, so no relationship can be. Strive for friendships between women that feel honest and genuine—because women are often at our most honest and genuine with our best friends.

I am so lucky to have so many female friends whom I cherish with all my heart. My life has been forever changed for the better because of the support, encouragement, and love that I’ve received from the women around me. Today is a day for all of us girls—nerdy or otherwise—to celebrate the women we love. It’s a day for all of us to be Leslie Knopes, acknowledging the beautiful, tropical fish in our lives. So take your favorite ladies out for some waffles (or drinks, coffee, a fancy dinner, or whatever they may choose), and show them how happy you are to be their friend.

It may not be a national holiday (yet), but I hope you all have a wonderful Galentine’s Day with all of the lady friends you love.


8 thoughts on “Ladies Celebrating Ladies

  1. Happy Galentine’s Day Katie!

    This post is wonderful! I agree with everything you’re saying here. There needs to be more female friendships on TV, and to be honest there needs to be more women on TV period. I was thinking about all the shows I watch while reading this article and most shows seem to have 1 woman and 3-4 men as the main characters (or a similar ratio). Just to list a few, even as much as I love these shows: NCIS, Castle, Elementary, Teen Wolf. And often shows will have maybe one other woman who shows up every 3 or 4 episodes in a minor recurring role, but that’s about it. The only shows I can think off the top of my head that have a cast that is made up of a majority of women tend to be shows that focus on fashion or gossipy drama/romance (or are marketed that way), which is definitely a stereotype.

    I tried today to think of shows that I watch that had a strong female friendship on it, and I could only think of one or two that even come close. Once Upon a Time has some good female friendships, though lately the show has focused a lot more on familial relationships and a little bit on romantic ones, and Sleepy Hollow has a good complex relationship between sisters. Most other shows I watch that have a female friendship on them don’t show their relationship very often.

    Sleepy Hollow is probably the show (that I’m watching) that I would give the most props for their cast & characters at the moment. I haven’t watched the 2 hour season finale so if someone died this could have changed, but the main 4 characters are 2 women & 2 men with 3 of the 4 being people of color, and I was pleasantly surprised by the way they’ve done things so far. Hopefully they will continue this trend for their second season.

    • Happy Galentine’s Day, Leah! 😀

      I completely agree with you assessment of the current gender makeup of TV shows. Many of the shows I watch also have a much smaller number of female cast members than male ones. So the ability to showcase diverse female friendships can’t happen until we get better at showcasing females in general on television.

      I definitely need to catch up on Sleepy Hollow this summer because everything I hear about from people whose opinions I trust (like you) makes me feel like it’s a show I’d really love.

  2. Amen Katie! The reasons you bring up are why I am mourning the loss of Leslie and Ann on Parks and Rec so much. There is a void there that will be hard to replace.

    I am having a hard time picking out strong female relationships on the rest of the shows I watch. Does Orphan Black count? And as Leah brought up too, Once Upon a Time has great relationships, but since there is a 75% chance that any two people on the show are probably related, everything turns out to be family relationships in the long run…

    I dont watch Bones anymore, but the relationship between Bones and Angela on that show was always a good one. They are two every different personalities, but you could tell that they both needed each other and helped each other be their best. And it wasn’t always about boys.

    Also, the relationship between Lily and Robin on How I Met Your Mother has also been a great female friendship. They are two women that dont really get along with other women in general, but they have a great friendship with each other. Although I am sure the number of scenes that just feature the two of them without the rest of the cast is probably pretty low.

    My pick for classic (is 1997 classic?) female friendship has to go to Buffy and Willow, especially in those early seasons.

    Oh, and I cant believe I almost forgot, and of course leave it to web series to succeed where traditional TV fails, the relationship between Lizzie and Charlotte in ‘The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” is perfect. And, there is this very very obscure web series called “Squaresville’ that I just adore to pieces. The two main characters are females in high school and have a great true to life friendship.

    Happy Galentine’s Day Katie!

    • Happy Galentine’s Day, Shauna!

      I love that you asked if Orphan Black counts because I was thinking the same thing as I was writing this. I’m going to go ahead and say yes it counts because the women on that show are all so incredible and so different. I also agree with the Once Upon a Time female relationships getting more and more complicated as the family trees get more complicated. I always adored Emma’s friendship with Mary Margaret, and as happy as I am that Emma found her mom, I miss seeing those two characters interacting as friends.

      Your other picks for good examples of awesome lady friends has me once again wishing for more hours in the day so I can watch The Lizzie Bennet Diaries!

  3. Since I apparently didn’t comment at the time, I guess I will now!

    First I’m going to vent my frustration about Donna and Rachel and Lanie and Beckett. They keep saying that they are friends but the writing doesn’t usually back that up and it makes me sad. I just want either set of these two to go out and have a glass of wine together or sit of the couch and watch TV. I want to actually see their friendship revolve around more than a guy.

    Besides the women of Parks and Rec and Brennan and Angela on Bones, my other favorite female friendship on TV is between Leslie Shay and Gabriela Dawson on Chicago Fire. They do talk about their romantic lives but they are also each other’s biggest cheerleaders. They got in a fight earlier this season and the show was worse off for it but now they are back together and being the team they should be. When Dawson was considering applying to the firefighting academy, Shay was her biggest supporter. She knew it was her dream and she also knew what it would mean and represent to other young women who dreamed of being apart of the male-dominated profession.

    • I’m so excited to see this comment from you!

      It makes me feel better to know that you also share my frustrations over the way Lanie and Beckett and Rachel and Donna seem to only interact when there are boy problems to talk about. This season has been especially disappointing in terms of Lanie and Beckett’s friendship. I would have loved to see her and Beckett talk about wedding things together, especially her dress. And a scene with Beckett asking Lanie to be in the wedding (because you know she’s a bridesmaid) would have made me so happy.

      I also apparently really need to watch Chicago Fire!

  4. Pingback: TV Time: Once Upon a Time 4.02 | Nerdy Girl Notes

  5. Pingback: A Galentine’s Day Message | Nerdy Girl Notes

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